Tucson Unified School District has closed 9 schools due to lack of enrollment and as a budget cut measure. Now, TUSD is looking at alternative solutions for the use of these empty schools. One solution has been to lease a school to International Schools of Tucson. While offers have been made from charter schools to lease other schools, the TUSD board seems to feel leasing to charter schools would be a conflict of interest.
As Tucson’s population grows, the younger families with children settle on the outskirts of town. This requires new schools to handle all the children in suburban areas. However, that leaves a ‘donut hole’ of older families with no school aged children. Central schools have a very low enrollment, and, while they often hold the benefit of smaller classrooms, they become a major budget cost per student. Today, TUSD is faced with a major budget deficit.
In 1943 and ‘44, Tucson’s population was centered southeast of the University of AZ. In fact, much of the growth of the University has gobbled up these houses. Others along Speedway, have become quaint shops and restaurants. Sam Hughes school is still alive due to housing for University students and professors with children.
In 1943, ‘44, the Burch family, long time residents on the corner of Tucson Blvd. and Blacklidge Dr., walked ¾ of a mile through desert fields of cholla and creosote bush to catch the school bus for University Heights School, near Speedway and Park. It was so open that Annie’s pet pigeon, Blackie, often walked with them. Across the street, they kept their milk cow.
Within 2 years, homes spread outward, and Jefferson Park was soon the New School, and Burch children walked through a desert rapidly filling with houses.
Four years later, homes filled the area beyond Alvernon. Cragin School was built – right where the cow had been kept. The third generation of Burches walked across the street to school. Cragin is still open due to ‘voluntary desegregation’ during the ‘70 – 2000s, and the ability to maintain excellent teachers and programs. But voluntary desegregation seems to be becoming a thing of the past. Tucson’s population has spread far east and northwest. Cragin may be the next school swallowed by the donut hole.
University Heights is now an apartment building, and Jefferson Park is the school now vacated by TUSD, and leased to International School of Tucson.
According to KVOA news, board member Mark Stegeman explained that IST was a good choice because it “…doesn’t compete with us…”. If TUSD has abandoned a school, and moved away, how does a charter school compete? Cragin now has 2 charter schools in the area. Is it the final death knell?